Corrections: Korantina Homes development is next to the Peyia sea caves in Akamas. Leptos Estates is the company developing directly on top of the sea caves.

Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis has blocked the building permit for Korantina Homes Ltd which was carrying out villa construction next to Peyia Sea Caves, reports Phileleftheros.

It is not clear what has happened to the permits for the villas being constructed right on top of the sea caves. This is a LEPTOS Estates development that has been condemned by public opinion and environmentalists for building on rapidly-eroding ground that is literally hollow underneath the foundations.

The sea caves are where the endangered Monk Seals live and breed. There are only around 700 Monk Seals left in the whole world, and eight to 10 of them live in the sea caves on Cyprus’ coastline. They are a protected species under Natura 2000 ethics and laws.┬áDr. Kadis has a background as an environmentalist, so his decision has sent a sigh of relief around environmentalist circles.

The welcome recent development followed an objection from Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides questioning an approved environmental study allowing the building permit. The minister has since rejected the study as there is simply no chance it had any integrity considering the danger of erosion, the endangered species underneath the villa’s foundations, and the Natura 2000 park all around. If the European Commission had proceeded with legal action, the government would have had no legal defense whatsoever, in this writer’s informed opinion.

Akamas attracts thousands of tourists who love nature, and go for walks and enjoy the stunning beauty of the area. Their visits are short term, and don’t have a negative environmental impact. Houses and long-term buildings like villa developments would have a negative impact in terms of pollution, noise, and damage to endangered species. When deciding the development in these areas, financial considerations are a much smaller part of the bigger picture. Environmental ethics and the need to protect some part of the island from turning into a concrete jungle like Ayia Napa take a much larger role in Natura 2000 projects.

The appropriate buildings are low-impact nature museums or botanical garden structures, which can also provide office space for Natura workers. Similar buildings can be seen in Natura parks around the European Union. Portugal has an amazing Nature 2000 protected area which is visited by thousands of tourists per year, generating money for the state but at the same time protecting precious natural heritage for present and future generations.

It is encouraging that it appears that environmental protection factors took priority over purely financial motives. The revenues will come to the state long-term from environmental tourism, so some patience and good management will go a long way. It is not only the sea caves that will be preserved but Cyprus’ reputation for respecting nature.

There is also the need to avoid a rash of luxury developments in exchange for Cyprus citizenship, as advertised by many developer companies since Brexit.